Even so, many Republicans in the Matalin camp see this as much ado about little, especially compared to, for instance, President Obama’s repeated falsehoods about people keeping the health insurance they like under the Affordable Care Act. Democrats see this as the inevitable ruin of a bully run amok.
But another consequential feature of this controversy is an emerging narrative that, barring the unforeseen, could shift focus from Christie’s administration to the greater villain — the media. Judging from my overflowing inbox, there’s a growing sense on the right that Christie is being unfairly battered by a media all too eager to help defrock the Republican front-runner.
Needless to say, one bad deed (Obama’s falsehoods) does not excuse another (misusing power to punish a political foe). The bridge scandal is compelling precisely because it fits the well-documented bullying image of Christie, notwithstanding his denials during the news conference. “I am not a bully,” he said, reminding us mostly of “I am not a witch.” Or “I am not a crook.”
Christie’s style was always going to be problematic for him in the primaries, especially in the polite South. But now he also can be viewed as a victim not only of malignant, malicious and mind-bendingly stupid staffers but also of a two-faced, pro-Democratic media.
The media are not monolithic, as we like to remind people. But we do have a tendency to focus on the latest scandal. And it does seem that we tend to treat Republican scandals as more delicious than others. This is owing less to the sins committed than to the greater sin of hypocrisy. The higher the bar, the harder they fall.
But Christie isn’t a strong exhibit in the mean-media argument. More than a Republican, he is a colorful, larger-than-life character who speaks loudly and carries a big stick. Cameras will always find the most interesting landscape, and Christie has that turf covered. More to the salient point, as the leading Republican presidential candidate, he can hardly be ignored. Coverage of this fiasco isn’t disproportionate to the man, even if it may be to the event.